Looking Back: The Hill School, 1914

Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 16, 2016

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The first schoolhouse in Birmingham was constructed in 1822, but it wasn’t until the Hill School opened in 1869 that the city had a public secondary school as well as a primary school.

Until that point, students who wished to further their studies past the eighth grade had to pay tuition at an academy run by local minister Samuel N. Hill.

The Hill School was constructed at the northwest corner of Chester and Merrill, where the Baldwin House Apartments now stand, at a cost of $14,000 — that’s equivalent to more than $246,000 today. The building was originally called Union School but was quickly renamed the Hill School to honor Samuel N. Hill’s dedication and service to the community.

When the school opened, the entire staff consisted of a principal and four teachers, with fewer than 100 students. During the time the school was in operation, Birmingham’s population boomed, and by 1912 the school could no longer support all the students of the town, and additional schools were built in the district. From 1912 to 1917, the Hill School operated solely as a high school.

The school closed to students in 1917 and served as administrative offices for the growing district. In 1969, the building was demolished to make way for a larger playground at Baldwin School.

The Hill School’s bell, added to the building in 1902, was displayed in the new administrative building until it was donated to the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park in 2007. Construction is set to begin this year on a protective gazebo-like structure to display the bell on the grounds of the museum. This structure will enable the bell to be rung while the museum is open, allowing the peal of the bell to once again ring out over the city.

— Caitlin Donnelly, Birmingham Historical Museum and Park

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